The Sixers essentially beat themselves in Portland with a slew of turnovers, but it was a tough game, in a tough arena against a good team. A test, if you will, for a team with big plans and probably some more work to do to reach their goals. Tonight's game in Phoenix against the Suns, however, is a game they absolutely should win.
The Suns lost to New Orleans (sans Chris Paul) on Monday night, and looked pretty bad doing it. They've still got Steve Nash, who apparently will never slow down, but they don't have anyone who can even masquerade as a scorer, nor a legitimate threat on the inside on the offensive end. What they have is a bunch of shooters, and a combo up front that sort of worries me.
Marcin Gortat is an extremely active big who will eat Hawes alive on the offensive glass and at least attempt to block every shot in the paint. Channing Frye is a stretch four who can get hot from deep and put a ton of points on the board if he gets on a roll. Pretty much if you're looking for the type of bigs who will have success against the Sixers' starting front court of Hawes/Brand, it would be Gortat and Frye.
Otherwise, the Suns are a pretty sad squad without much firepower on the floor now, nor hope for the future. Their first round pick, Markieff Morris, had a decent game in the opener, and Robin Lopez was efficient in scoring 21, but take a look at their entire rotation on the perimeter: Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price, Sebastian Telfair and Josh Childress. The one wildcard on their bench is Hakeem Warrick, who has given the Sixers fits in the past and presents a problem with his aggressive, athletic play at the four.
The first thing I'm looking for in this game is a win. I don't care how they do it, they just need to do it. The moral victory in Portland is meaningless, and I don't want to see this team underperforming and using excuses. Get the win. The second thing I want to see is some semblance of an offense. They ran sets last season, they ran plays. It was how they were somewhat efficient on that side of the ball. They did almost none of that against the Blazers. The Suns don't have good team defense, nor really that many solid individual defenders, and the guy guarding the point of attack is terrible. Get into your sets, run some offense.
The resilience the Sixers showed against Portland is important. It might help them turn some losses into wins against teams they really shouldn't beat, but the net result of that will be another .500 record if they can't take care of the teams they should beat. Tonight's game falls in that category.
A few notes from Monday night's game:
- LaMarcus Aldridge finished the game with 25 points on 25 shots, which is a perfect result for the Sixers. Giving him those open looks at long twos early payed huge dividends later in the game. On the night, Aldridge shot 4/13 from 16-23 feet.
- Thad was 5/5 from inside 10 feet, 0/4 from the outside.
- Hawes, Brand and Lou each attempted 5 shots from 16-23 feet to lead the team.
- Hawes' usage rate was 12% and his DREB rate was 29.1%. If he can keep those numbers right there, I'm fine with him playing 40 minutes/night
- Gerald Wallace was 7/9 in the paint, and I watched him against the Kings tonight, he was even better. That guy is a monster. Though I wish he'd cut out all the flopping.